Did you know that we buy nearly five times as much stuff from the Chinese as they buy from us? According to government numbers that were just released, we imported 44.9 billion dollars worth of stuff from China in September but we only exported 9.3 billion dollars worth of stuff to them. And this is not happening because our economy is so much larger than China’s. In fact, the IMF says that China now has the largest economy on the entire planet on a purchasing power basis. No, the truth is that this is happening because our economy is broken. Every month, we consume far more wealth than we produce. Because the outflow of money is far greater than the inflow, we have to go to major exporting nations and beg them to lend our dollars back to us so that we can pay our bills. Meanwhile, the quality of the jobs in this country continues to go down and our formerly great manufacturing cities are rotting and decaying. We are committing national economic suicide, and most Americans don’t seem to care.
Barack Obama is constantly hyping a “manufacturing resurgence” in America, but the numbers don’t lie. In September, our manufactured goods trade deficit with the rest of the world soared to a new all-time record high of 69.16 billion dollars. For the year, we are nearly 12 percent ahead of last year’s record pace.
When we buy far more things than we sell, we get poorer as a nation.
How do you think that we ever got into a position of owing China more than a trillion dollars?
We just kept buying far more from them than they bought from us, and their money just kept piling up. Now it has gotten to the point where our politicians literally beg them to lend our money back to us. They are the head and we are the tail.
And we did this to ourselves.
Once upon a time, the United States was the greatest manufacturing powerhouse that the world had ever seen. But now China manufactures more stuff than us and China also accounts for more total global trade (imports plus exports) than us.
This should never have happened. Several decades ago, the Chinese economy was a complete joke. But decades of incredibly foolish decisions by our politicians have resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of manufacturing facilities, millions of good paying jobs and the destruction of vast stretches of our economic infrastructure.
During the same time frame, gleaming new manufacturing facilities have gone up all over China.
China is literally wiping the floor with us on the global economic stage and most Americans don’t even understand what is happening. Here is more on the trade deficit numbers that were just released from the RealityChek Blog…
>The China goods deficit of $35.56 billion blew past the old mark of $30.86 billion, set in July, by 15.23 percent. The new deficit also represented a 17.77 percent increase over the August level of $30.20 billion.
>U.S. goods exports to the still strongly growing Chinese economy fell on month in September from $9.63 billion to $9.33 billion (3.12 percent). U.S. merchandise imports from China jumped by 12.70 percent over August levels, from $39.83 billion to $44.89 billion – itself an all-time high.
>The U.S. goods deficit with China this year is now so far running 5.62 percent ahead of 2014’s record pace.
>The longstanding U.S. manufacturing trade shortfall shot up from $59.10 billion in August to $69.16 billion in September. This 17.02 percent jump resulted in a beat of the old record of $67.33 billion, also set in July, by 2.72 percent.
And it isn’t just cheap plastic trinkets that China is selling to us.
In fact, their number one export to us is computer equipment.
Meanwhile, one of our main exports to them is “scrap and trash”.
For much more on how China is absolutely dominating us, please see my previous article entitled “Not Just The Largest Economy – Here Are 26 Other Ways China Has Surpassed America“.
Sadly, there are a couple of factors that will probably make our trade deficit with the rest of the world even worse in the months ahead.
Number one, the currency war that I wrote about earlier this week will probably push the U.S. dollar even higher against the yen and the euro.
You might think that a rising dollar sounds good, but the truth is that it will make our exports less competitive in the global marketplace.
Nations such as Japan devalue their currencies so that they can sell more stuff to us. But that hurts our own domestic industries. And when our own domestic industries suffer, that means less jobs for American workers.
Secondly, the collapse in the price of oil could have very serious implications for the shale oil industry.
In recent years, the shale oil revolution has caused local economic booms in states such as Texas and North Dakota. But shale oil tends to be quite expensive to extract. As I write this, the price of U.S. oil has fallen to about 77 dollars a barrel. If it stays at that level or keeps going down, shale oil production in the United States will slow down dramatically.
In other words, a lot of these shale oil “boom towns” could go “bust” very rapidly.
If that happens, the amount of oil that we import will rise substantially and that will add to our overall trade deficit.
But of course the biggest factor fueling our trade deficit is that the vast majority of Americans simply do not care that we are committing national economic suicide.
When we buy products made in America, we support American businesses and American workers.
When we buy products made overseas, we hurt American businesses, we kill American jobs and we make ourselves poorer as a nation.
Of course there is nothing wrong with buying a foreign-made product once in a while. But this holiday season, most people will fill their shopping carts to the brim with foreign-made goods without even thinking twice about it.
The next time that you go into a huge retail establishment such as Wal-Mart, start picking up products and look to see where they were made.
I think that you will be shocked at how few of them are actually made inside the United States.
When are Americans going to get sick and tired of making China wealthier at our expense?
We are willing participants in the destruction of the U.S. economy, and yet only a small minority of people seem to care.
What is it going to take for people to finally wake up?
How long can America continue to burn up wealth? How long can this nation continue to consume far more wealth than it produces? The trade deficit is one of the biggest reasons for the steady decline of the U.S. economy, but many Americans don’t even understand what it is. Basically, we are buying far more stuff from the rest of the world than they are buying from us. That means that far more money is constantly leaving the country than is coming into the country. In order to keep the game going, we have to go to the people that we bought all of that stuff from and ask them to lend our money back to us. Or lately, we just have the Federal Reserve create new money out of thin air. This is called “quantitative easing”. Our current debt-fueled lifestyle is dependent on this cycle continuing. In order to live like we do, we must consume far more wealth than we produce. If someday we are forced to only live on the wealth that we create, it will require a massive adjustment in our standard of living. We have become great at consuming wealth but not so great at creating it. But as a result of running gigantic trade deficits year after year, we have lost tens of thousands of businesses, millions upon millions of jobs, and America is being deindustrialized at a staggering pace.
Most Americans won’t even notice, but the latest monthly trade deficit increased to 42.3 billion dollars…
The U.S. trade deficit climbed to the highest level in five months in February as demand for American exports fell while imports increased slightly.
The deficit increased to $42.3 billion, which was 7.7% above the January imbalance of $39.3 billion, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.
When the trade deficit increases, it means that even more wealth, even more jobs and even more businesses have left the United States.
In essence, we have gotten poorer as a nation.
Have you ever wondered how China has gotten so wealthy?
Just a few decades ago, they were basically a joke economically.
So how in the world did they get so powerful?
Well, one of the primary ways that they did it was by selling us far more stuff than we sold to them. If we had refused to do business with communist China, they never would have become what they have become today. It was our decisions that allowed China to become an economic powerhouse.
Last year, we sold 122 billion dollars of stuff to China.
That sounds like a lot until you learn that China sold 440 billion dollars of stuff to us.
We fill up our shopping carts with lots of cheap plastic trinkets that are “made in China”, and they pile up gigantic mountains of our money which we beg them to lend back to us so that we can pay our bills.
Who is winning that game and who is losing that game?
Below, I have posted our yearly trade deficits with China since 1990. Let’s see if you can spot the trend…
1990: 10 billion dollars
1991: 12 billion dollars
1992: 18 billion dollars
1993: 22 billion dollars
1994: 29 billion dollars
1995: 33 billion dollars
1996: 39 billion dollars
1997: 49 billion dollars
1998: 56 billion dollars
1999: 68 billion dollars
2000: 83 billion dollars
2001: 83 billion dollars
2002: 103 billion dollars
2003: 124 billion dollars
2004: 162 billion dollars
2005: 202 billion dollars
2006: 234 billion dollars
2007: 258 billion dollars
2008: 268 billion dollars
2009: 226 billion dollars
2010: 273 billion dollars
2011: 295 billion dollars
2012: 315 billion dollars
2013: 318 billion dollars
It has been estimated that the U.S. economy loses approximately 9,000 jobs for every 1 billion dollars of goods that are imported from overseas, and according to the Economic Policy Institute, America is losing about half a million jobs to China every single year.
Considering the high level of unemployment that we now have in this country, can we really afford to be doing that?
Overall, the United States has accumulated a total trade deficit with the rest of the world of more than 8 trillion dollars since 1975.
As a result, we have lost tens of thousands of businesses, millions of jobs and our economic infrastructure has been absolutely gutted.
Just look at what has happened to manufacturing jobs in America. Back in the 1980s, more than 20 percent of the jobs in the United States were manufacturing jobs. Today, only about 9 percent of the jobs in the United States are manufacturing jobs.
And we have fewer Americans working in manufacturing today than we did in 1950 even though our population has more than doubled since then…
Many people find this statistic hard to believe, but the United States has lost a total of more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities since 2001.
Millions of good paying jobs have been lost.
As a result, the middle class is shriveling up, and at this point 9 out of the top 10 occupations in America pay less than $35,000 a year.
For a long time, U.S. consumers attempted to keep up their middle class lifestyles by going into constantly increasing amounts of debt, but now it is becoming increasingly apparent that middle class consumers are tapped out.
In response, major retailers are closing thousands of stores in poor and middle class neighborhoods all over the country. You can see some amazing photos of America’s abandoned shopping malls right here.
If we could start reducing the size of our trade deficit, that would go a long way toward getting the United States back on the right economic path.
Unfortunately, Barack Obama has been negotiating a treaty in secret which is going to send the deindustrialization of America into overdrive. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is being called the “NAFTA of the Pacific”, and it is going to result in millions more good jobs being sent to the other side of the planet where it is legal to pay slave labor wages.
According to Professor Alan Blinder of Princeton University, 40 million more U.S. jobs could be sent offshore over the next two decades if current trends continue.
So what will this country look like when we lose tens of millions more jobs than we already have?
U.S. workers are being merged into a giant global labor pool where they must compete directly for jobs with people making less than a dollar an hour with no benefits.
Obama tells us that globalization is good for us and that Americans need to be ready to adjust to a “level playing field”.
The quality of our jobs has already been declining for decades, and if we continue down this path the quality of our jobs is going to get a whole lot worse and our economic infrastructure will continue to be absolutely gutted.
At one time, the city of Detroit was the greatest manufacturing city on the entire planet and it had the highest per capita income in the United States. But today, it is a rotting, decaying hellhole that the rest of the world laughs at.
In the end, the rest of the nation is going to suffer the same fate as Detroit unless Americans are willing to stand up and fight for their economy while they still can.
In order for our current level of debt-fueled prosperity to continue, the rest of the world must continue to use our dollars to trade with one another and must continue to buy our debt at ridiculously low interest rates. Of course the number one foreign nation that we depend on to participate in our system is China. China accounts for more global trade than anyone else on the planet (including the United States), and most of that trade is conducted in U.S. dollars. This keeps demand for our dollars very high, and it ensures that we can import massive quantities of goods from overseas at very low cost. As a major exporting nation, China ends up with gigantic piles of our dollars. They lend many of those dollars back to us at ridiculously low interest rates. At this point, China owns more of our national debt than any other country does. But if China was to decide to quit playing our game and started moving away from U.S. dollars and U.S. debt, our economic prosperity could disappear very rapidly. Demand for the U.S. dollar would fall and prices would go up. And interest rates on our debt and everything else in our financial system would go up to crippling levels. So it is absolutely critical to our financial future that China continues to play our game.
Unfortunately, there are signs that China has now decided to start looking for a smooth exit from the game. In November, I wrote about how the central bank of China has announced that it is “no longer in China’s favor to accumulate foreign-exchange reserves”. That means that the pile of U.S. dollars that China is sitting on is not going to get any higher.
In addition, China has signed a whole host of international currency agreements with other nations during the past couple of years which are going to result in less U.S. dollars being used in international trade. You can read about many of these agreements in this article.
This week, we learned that China started to dump U.S. debt during the month of December. Many have imagined that China would try to dump a flood of our debt on to the market all of a sudden once they decided to exit, but that simply does not make sense. Instead, it makes sense for China to dump a bit of debt at a time so that the market will not panic and so that they can get close to full value for the paper that they are holding.
As Bloomberg reported the other day, China dumped nearly 50 billion dollars of U.S. debt during the month of December…
China, the largest foreign U.S. creditor, reduced holdings of U.S. Treasury debt in December by the most in two years as the Federal Reserve announced plans to slow asset purchases.
The nation pared its position in U.S. government bonds by $47.8 billion, or 3.6 percent, to $1.27 trillion, the largest decline since December 2011, according to U.S. Treasury Department data released yesterday.
This is how I would do it if I was China. I would try to dump 30, 40 or 50 billion dollars a month. I would try to make a smooth exit and try to get as much for my U.S. debt paper as I could.
So if China is not going to stockpile U.S. dollars or U.S. debt any longer, what is it going to stockpile?
It is going to stockpile gold of course. In fact, China has been voraciously stockpiling gold for quite some time, and their hunger for gold appears to be growing.
According to Bloomberg, more than 80 percent of the gold that was exported from Switzerland last month went to Asia…
Switzerland sent more than 80 percent of its gold and silver bullion and coin exports to Asia last month, the Swiss Federal Customs Administration said today in an e-mailed report. It imported most from the U.K.
Hong Kong was the top destination at 44 percent on a value basis, with India at 14 percent, the Bern-based customs agency said in its first breakdown of the gold trade data since 1980. Singapore accounted for 8.6 percent of exports, the United Arab Emirates 7.9 percent and China 6.3 percent.
When China imports gold, most of it goes through Hong Kong. We know that imports of gold from Hong Kong into China are at an all-time record high, but we don’t know exactly how much gold China has accumulated at this point because they quit reporting that to the rest of the world a number of years ago.
When it comes to global finance, China is playing chess and the United States is playing checkers. China knows that gold is a universal currency that will hold value over the long-term. As the paper currencies of the world race toward collapse, China could end up holding most of the real money and that would be a huge game changer when they finally reveal that fact…
The announcement of China’s new gold hoard will send shockwaves through the financial markets, and make China and the Chinese yuan (their national currency) even bigger players at the international table.
International banking expert James Rickards compared it to a game of Texas Hold ‘Em poker:
“You want a big pile of chips. The U.S. has a big pile of chips, Europe has a big pile of chips. The U.S. has 8,000 tonnes [metric tons] of gold, 17 members of the euro system have 10,000 tonnes. China at 1,000 tonnes is not a player, but at 5,000 tonnes, they are a player.”
There are some really good points made in the quote above, but I do take exception with a couple of things. First of all, I believe that China now has far more than 5,000 tons of gold. Secondly, I seriously doubt that the U.S. still actually has 8,000 tons of gold or that Europe still actually has 10,000 tons of gold.
As China (and eventually the rest of the world) moves away from a U.S.-based financial system, the consequences are going to be dramatic.
For instance, right now the average rate of interest that the U.S. government pays on debt is just 2.477 percent. That is ridiculously low and it is way below the real rate of inflation. It is simply not rational for anyone to lend the U.S. government money so cheaply, and at some point we are going to see a dramatic shift.
When that day arrives, interest rates are going to rise dramatically. And if the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt rises to just 6 percent (and it has been much higher than that in the past), we will be paying out more than a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.
Even more frightening is what a rapidly changing interest rate environment would mean for our banking system. There are four large U.S. banks that each have exposure to derivatives in excess of 40 trillion dollars. You can find the identity of those banks right here. Interest rate derivatives make up the biggest chunk of those derivatives contracts. As John Embry told King World News just the other day, when that bubble bursts the carnage is going to be unprecedented…
“Stockman brought up a brilliant point, the fact that we have hundreds of trillions of dollars of interest rate swaps, which are polluting the world’s banking system. If we see growing volatility in interest rates, and I think that’s inevitable with what’s going on, that would cause spasms in the financial system. And if something goes wrong in the derivatives market, Heaven help us because the leverage that is imparted to the banking system through these derivatives is unholy.”
Unfortunately, very few of the “experts” will ever see this crash coming.
Very few of them saw it coming in 2000.
Very few of them saw it coming in 2008.
And very few of them will see it coming this time.
I really like what Paul B. Farrell had to say about this…
Early warnings of a crash are dismissed over and over (“just a temporary correction”). They gradually numb us about the inevitable. Time after time we forget history’s lessons. Until finally a big surprise catches us totally off-guard. Financial historian Niall Ferguson put it this way: Before the crash, our world seems almost stationary, deceptively so, balanced, at a set point. So that when the crash finally hits — as inevitably it will — everyone seems surprised. And our brains keep telling us it’s not time for a crash.
Till then, life just goes along quietly, hypnotizing us, making us vulnerable, till a shocker like Lehman Brothers upsets the balance. Then, says Ferguson, the crash is “accelerating suddenly, like a sports car … like a thief in the night.” It hits. Shocks us wide awake.
Don’t let the upcoming crash take you by surprise.
The warning signs are very clear.
Get ready while you still can.
It has been said that there are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One way is by using the sword, and the other is by using debt. Fortunately, America is not in danger of being conquered by the sword right now, but America is being conquered by debt. The borrower is the servant of the lender, and today we owe China more than a trillion dollars. By running a gigantic trade deficit with us, China has been able to become incredibly wealthy. We have begged them to lend us back some of the money that we have sent them and this has made them even wealthier. Now China is gobbling up U.S. real estate and U.S. assets at an astounding pace. In fact, some cities are in danger of becoming completely dominated by Chinese ownership. One of those cities is Toledo, Ohio. In many “rust belt” areas, real estate can be had for a song, and the Chinese are taking full advantage of this. America was once the wealthiest nation on earth, but now we are drowning in debt and we are being sold off in chunks to the highest bidder. Is this the legacy that we are going to leave for future generations?
According to a recent Fortune article, Chinese investors have been very busy purchasing distressed commercial real estate in Toledo lately….
In March 2011, Chinese investors paid $2.15 million cash for a restaurant complex on the Maumee River in Toledo, Ohio. Soon they put down another $3.8 million on 69 acres of newly decontaminated land in the city’s Marina District, promising to invest $200 million in a new residential-commercial development. That September, another Chinese firm spent $3 million for an aging hotel across a nearby bridge with a view of the minor league ballpark.
Toledo is being promoted to Chinese investors as a “5-star logistics region“. From Toledo it is very easy to get to Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Indianapolis.
With a population of 287,000, Toledo is only the fourth largest city in Ohio, but it lies at the junction of two important highways — I-75 and I-80/90. “My vision is to make Toledo a true international city,” Toledo’s Mayor Mike Bell told the Toledo Blade.
For some reason the Chinese seem to be very interested in that area of the country. Last month, I wrote about how one Chinese group plans to develop a 200 acre “China city” just 40 minutes away from Toledo….
A Chinese group known as “Sino-Michigan Properties LLC” has bought up 200 acres of land near the town of Milan, Michigan. Their plan is to construct a “China City” with artificial lakes, a Chinese cultural center and hundreds of housing units for Chinese citizens. Essentially, it would be a little slice of communist China dropped right into the heartland of America. This “China City” would be located about 40 minutes from both Detroit and Toledo, and it would be marketed to Chinese business people that want to start businesses in the United States.
But it is not just the rust belt that is being bought up by the Chinese. A recent Forbes article documented several of the huge real estate deals that the Chinese are doing in New York right now….
According to a recent report in the New York Times, investors from China are “snapping up luxury apartments” and are planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on commercial and residential projects like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. Chinese companies also have signed major leases at the Empire State Building and at 1 World Trade Center, the report said.
In addition to real estate, the Chinese are also buying up businesses and natural resources all over the United States.
For example, the Dalian Wanda Group recently bought U.S. movie theater chain AMC Entertainment for 2.6 billion dollars.
Also, the Obama administration has been allowing companies owned by the Chinese government to gobble up U.S. oil and gas deposits worth billions of dollars.
On top of all that, the Federal Reserve recently announced that it will now allow Chinese banks to start buying up American banks.
So how in the world did we come to be so completely and totally dominated by China?
Well, the key to all of this is the trade deficit.
Most Americans can’t even tell you what a trade deficit is, but it is at the very heart of our economic problems.
Basically, we buy far, far more from other countries than they buy from us.
Most Americans don’t realize this, but the truth is that the United States has a trade imbalance that is more than 5 times larger than any other nation on earth has.
Overall, the U.S. has run a trade deficit of more than 8 trillion dollars with the rest of the globe since 1975.
If you go into a Wal-Mart of a dollar store today and you start looking at product labels, you will notice that hundreds of products say “made in China” and very few of them say that they were made in this country.
Every single month, China sends us gigantic mountains of plastic crap to sell in our stores and we send them gigantic mountains of our money.
The U.S. trade deficit with China during 2011 was $295.4 billion. That was the largest trade deficit that one country has had with another country in the history of the planet.
Sadly, so far our trade deficit with China in 2012 is about 12 percent larger than it was last year.
So things are getting even worse.
To get an idea of how far things have come, let us take a look back at the 1980s for a moment.
Back in 1985, the U.S. trade deficit with China was only 6 million dollars for the entire year.
All of this imbalanced trade is absolutely killing us.
Today, the United States spends about 4 dollars on goods and services from China for every one dollar that China spends on goods and services from the United States.
So why doesn’t China buy more stuff from us?
Well, there are a whole lot of reasons. One of the main reasons is that they slap huge tariffs on many American-made goods.
For example, according to the New York Times a Jeep Grand Cherokee that costs $27,490 in the United States costs about $85,000 in China thanks to all the tariffs.
So why do we allow China to keep doing this to us?
That is a very good question.
Meanwhile, China is continually getting wealthier and we are continually getting poorer.
All of the money that is leaving this country and going to China could be going to U.S. businesses and U.S. workers instead. In turn, those businesses and workers would pay taxes on that money to support the government.
Instead, we have to go beg China to lend us the money that we just sent to them.
At this point, China now holds approximately 1.17 trillion dollars of U.S. government debt.
None of this ever had to happen.
But it did happen because we were stupid.
Now China has mountains of money to literally buy us up.
But China is not the only country that we have an imbalanced trading relationship with.
For example, the new “free trade agreement” between the United States and South Korea that Barack Obama has been touting went into full effect on March 15, 2012.
So how has that “free trade agreement” turned out so far? The following is from a recent article by Pat Buchanan….
The U.S. trade deficit with Korea tripled in one month. Imports from South Korea jumped 15 percent to $5.5 billion in April, while U.S. exports to South Korea fell 12 percent to $3.7 billion. Suddenly, the U.S. trade deficit with Seoul surged to an annual rate of $22 billion.
Shades of NAFTA. When it passed in 1993, we had a $1.6 billion trade surplus with Mexico. By 2010, our trade deficit with Mexico had reached $61.6 billion.
The truth is that these free trade agreements are not fair and balanced.
U.S. workers end up competing for jobs with workers in countries where it is legal to pay slave labor wages. And other countries often have far fewer rules and regulations to follow as well. In his recent article, Buchanan described why all Americans should be economic nationalists….
Global free trade means U.S. workers compete with Asian and Latin American workers whose wages are a fraction of our own and whose benefits may be nonexistent. Global free trade means U.S factories that relocate to Indonesia or India need not observe U.S. laws on health, safety, pollution or paying a minimum wage.
Global free trade means that companies that move factories outside the United States can send their products back to the United States free of charge and undercut businessmen who retain their American workers and live within American laws.
Free trade makes suckers and fools out of patriots.
Unfortunately, both major political parties in the United States are absolutely married to the one world economic agenda that the elite are pushing.
So we will continue to bleed wealth, businesses and jobs at an astounding pace.
You can get a really good idea of the horrific manufacturing job losses in the United States over the past 40 years by checking out this map right here.
Overall, the United States has lost a total of more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities since 2001.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, since 2001 America has lost approximately 2.8 million jobs due to our trade deficit with China alone.
There seems to be absolutely no concern with protecting American jobs these days.
If you can believe it, Chinese corporations are even building our bridges. The following is a brief excerpt from a recent ABC News article….
In New York there is a $400 million renovation project on the Alexander Hamilton Bridge.
In California, there is a $7.2 billion project to rebuild the Bay Bridge connecting San Francisco and Oakland.
In Alaska, there is a proposal for a $190 million bridge project.
These projects sound like steps in the right direction, but much of the work is going to Chinese government-owned firms.
“When we subsidize jobs in China, we’re not creating any wealth in the United States,” said Scott Paul, executive director for the Alliance for American Manufacturing.
Americans need to start understanding that our trade deficit is causing us to lose massive numbers of businesses and jobs and that this is making us poorer as a nation.
As I wrote about the other day, the median net worth of families in the United States declined “from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010” according to the Federal Reserve.
Even if you take away the effect of the housing collapse, household net worth still declined by 25 percent between 2005 and 2010.
A lot of that decline in wealth was due to the recent recession, but the point I am trying to make is that we are getting poorer as a nation.
A decade ago, the United States was ranked number one in average wealth per adult. By 2010, the United States had fallen to seventh.
And when you factor in our debts, we are a complete and total mess. U.S. consumers are more than 11 trillion dollars in debt and the federal government is nearly 16 trillion dollars in debt.
We are getting deeper in debt at the same time that our ability to service that debt is declining.
The reality is that our economy is completely falling apart and it no longer produces enough jobs for everyone.
In fact, it isn’t even close.
Right now there are about 3.7 workers that are “officially” unemployed for every single job opening.
So what we are doing right now is clearly not working.
We need to fundamentally change direction as a nation.
Unfortunately, that is not going to happen any time soon.
So where do we go from here?
Well, it is official. The restructuring deal between Greece and private investors has been pushed through and the International Swaps and Derivatives Association has ruled that this is a credit event which will trigger credit-default swap contracts. The ISDA is saying that there are approximately $3.2 billion in credit-default swap contracts on Greek debt outstanding, and most analysts expect that the global financial system will be able to absorb these losses. But still, 3.2 billion dollars is nothing to scoff at, and some of these financial institutions that wrote a lot of these contracts on Greek debt are going to be hurting. This deal with private investors may have “rescued” Greece for the moment, but the consequences of this deal are going to be felt for years to come. For example, now that Greece has gotten a sweet “haircut” from private investors, politicians in Portugal, Italy, Spain and other European nations are going to wonder why they shouldn’t get some “debt forgiveness” too. Also, private investors are almost certainly going to be less likely to want to loan money to European nations from now on. If they will be required to take a massive haircuts at some point, then why in the world would they want to lend huge amounts of money to European governments at super low interest rates? It simply does not make sense. Now that Greece has defaulted, the whole game is going to change. This is just the beginning.
The “restructuring deal” was approved by approximately 84 percent of all Greek bondholders, but the key to triggering the payouts on the credit-default swaps was the fact that Greece decided to activate the “collective action clauses” which had been retroactively inserted into these bonds. These collective action clauses force most of the rest of the bondholders to go along with this restructuring deal.
A recent article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard explained why so many people were upset about these “collective action clauses”….
The Greek parliament’s retroactive law last month to insert collective action clauses (CACs) into its bonds to coerce creditor hold-outs has added a fresh twist. These CAC’s are likely to be activated over coming days. Use of retroactive laws to change contracts is anathema in credit markets.
If a government can go in and retroactively change the terms of a bond just before it is ready to default, then why should private investors invest in them?
That is a very good question.
But for now the buck has been passed on to those that issued the credit-default swaps. As mentioned above, the ISDA says that there are approximately $3.2 billion in Greek credit-default swaps that will need to be paid out.
However, that number assumes that a lot of hedges and offsetting swaps cancel each other out. When you just look at the raw total of swaps outstanding, the number is much, much higher. The following is from a recent article in The Huffington Post….
If you remove all hedges and offsetting swaps, there’s about $70 billion in default-insurance exposure to Greece out there, which is a little bit bigger pill for the banking system to swallow. Is it possible that some banks won’t be able to pay on their default policies? We’ll find out.
Yes, indeed. We will find out very soon.
If some counterparties are unable to pay we could soon see some big problems cascade through the financial system.
But even with this new restructuring deal with private investors, Greece is still in really bad shape.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters recently that it “would be a big mistake to think we are out of the woods”.
Even with this new deal, Greek debt is still projected to be only reduced to 120 percent of GDP by the year 2020. And that number relies on projections that are almost unbelievably optimistic.
In addition, there are still a whole host of very strict conditions that the Greek government must meet in order to continue getting bailout money.
Also, the upcoming Greek elections in just a few weeks could bring this entire process to an end in just a single day.
So the crisis in Greece is a long way from over.
The Greek economy has been in recession for five years in a row and it continues to shrink at a frightening pace. Greek GDP was 7.5 percent smaller during the 4th quarter of 2011 than it was during the 4th quarter of 2010.
Unemployment in Greece also continues to get worse.
The average unemployment rate in Greece in 2010 was 12.5 percent. During 2011, the average unemployment rate was 17.3 percent, and in December the unemployment rate in Greece was 21.0 percent.
Young people are getting hit the hardest. The youth unemployment rate in Greece is up to an all-time record of 51.1 percent.
The suicide rate in Greece is also at an all-time record high.
Unfortunately, there is no light at the end of the tunnel for Greece at this point. The latest round of austerity measures that are now being implemented will slow the economy down even more.
Sadly, several other countries in Europe are going down the exact same road that Greece has gone.
Investors all over the globe are wondering which one will be the “next Greece”.
Some believe that it will be Portugal. The following is from a recent article in The Telegraph….
“The rule of law has been treated with contempt,” said Marc Ostwald from Monument Securities. “This will lead to litigation for the next ten years. It has become a massive impediment for long-term investors, and people will now be very wary about Portugal.”
Right now, the combination of all public and private debt in Portugal comes to a grand total of 360 percent of GDP.
In Greece, the combined total of all public and private debt is about 100 percentage points less than that.
So yes, Portugal is heading for a world of hurt. The following is more about Portugal from the recent Telegraph article mentioned above….
Citigroup expects the economy to contract by 5.7pc this year, warning that bondholders may face a 50pc haircut by the end of the year. Portugal’s €78bn loan package from the EU-IMF Troika is already large enough to crowd out private creditors, reducing them to ever more junior status.
So why should anyone invest in Portuguese debt at this point?
Or Italian debt?
Or Spanish debt?
Or any European debt at all?
The truth is that the European financial system is a house of cards that could come crashing down at any time.
German economist Hans-Werner Sinn is even convinced that the European Central Bank itself could collapse.
There is a Der Spiegel article that everyone out there should read. It is entitled “Euro-Zone Central Bank System Massively Imbalanced“. It is quite technical, but if this German economist is correct, the implications are staggering.
The following is from the first paragraph of the article….
More than a year ago, German economist Hans-Werner Sinn discovered a gigantic risk on the balance sheets of Germany’s central bank. Were the euro zone to collapse, Bundesbank losses could be half a trillion euros — more than one-and-a-half times the size of the country’s annual budget.
So no, the European debt crisis is not over.
It is just getting warmed up.
Get ready for a wild ride.
Any financial system that is based on debt is doomed to fail. Today, we are living in the greatest debt bubble that the world has ever seen, and if all of a sudden people could not use credit to buy things our economy would immediately ground to a halt. Unfortunately, no debt bubble can last forever. When this current debt bubble finally bursts, faith in the financial system is going to disappear, credit is going to freeze up and there is going to be a massive wave of bank failures. Right now, Greece is a warning sign for the world. Nobody wants to lend money to Greece, the Greek banking system is dying, one out of every four businesses has already shut down, unemployment is soaring and the Greek economy has now been in recession for five years in a row. Sadly, the economic implosion in Greece is rapidly accelerating. The Greek economy shrunk at a 7 percent annual rate during the 4th quarter of 2011. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Things were supposed to be getting better in Greece by now. But instead the Greek depression is getting even worse, and very soon the rest of the world is going to be going through what Greece is currently experiencing.
Unfortunately, most in the mainstream media are treating what is happening in Greece as an “isolated incident” rather than as a very serious warning sign for the world.
Thankfully, there are at least a few reporters out there that are realizing the gravity of the situation. The following is how one reporter from the New York Times recently described what life is like in Greece now….
By many indicators, Greece is devolving into something unprecedented in modern Western experience. A quarter of all Greek companies have gone out of business since 2009, and half of all small businesses in the country say they are unable to meet payroll. The suicide rate increased by 40 percent in the first half of 2011. A barter economy has sprung up, as people try to work around a broken financial system. Nearly half the population under 25 is unemployed. Last September, organizers of a government-sponsored seminar on emigrating to Australia, an event that drew 42 people a year earlier, were overwhelmed when 12,000 people signed up. Greek bankers told me that people had taken about one-third of their money out of their accounts; many, it seems, were keeping what savings they had under their beds or buried in their backyards. One banker, part of whose job these days is persuading people to keep their money in the bank, said to me, “Who would trust a Greek bank?”
Can you imagine?
Greece is experiencing a full-blown economic collapse and nobody can see a light at the end of the tunnel at this point.
As I have written about previously, the overall rate of unemployment in Greece has now risen above 20 percent and the youth unemployment rate in Greece has soared to an astounding 48 percent.
Deleveraging can be an extremely painful process. Greece has been forced to try to reduce the size of its budget deficit, but every time it cuts government spending that causes economic activity (and thus government revenues) to slow down as well.
Now the EU and the IMF are demanding that even more very painful austerity measures be implemented in Greece even though Greece is already experiencing a full-blown depression.
The EU and the IMF are demanding that Greece fire 15,000 more government workers immediately and a total of 150,000 government workers by 2015.
The EU and the IMF are demanding that wages for government workers be cut by another 20 percent.
The EU and the IMF are demanding that the minimum wage be slashed by more than 20 percent.
The EU and the IMF are also demanding significant reductions in unemployment benefits and pension benefits.
Of course all of those cuts are going to make the short-term economic conditions in Greece even worse.
The rioting, looting and burning of buildings that we are witnessing right now in Greece is likely to continue for quite some time as exasperated citizens attempt to express their frustrations to politicians that simply do not seem to care.
According to the National Confederation of Greek Commerce, recent rioting resulted in damage to 153 businesses in Athens. 45 of those businesses were totally destroyed.
You can view some stunning footage of the current rioting in Greece right here.
Despite all of the austerity measures that have already been implemented, the truth is that Greece is very likely to default soon anyway.
There is a very good chance that the new austerity agreement that the Greek parliament just approved will never be implemented. There are new elections scheduled for April and the current party in power is polling in the single digits.
The new Greek government is likely to look much different from the current one, and nobody knows for sure if the new government will follow through on any of the promises being made by the current government.
In addition, the German parliament must approve this new deal with Greece, and the German parliament is not scheduled to vote on it until February 27th. Considering the mood in Germany right now, approval is not guaranteed.
So there are all kinds of things that could go wrong with the “deals” that are currently being discussed. The truth is that a Greek default in the coming months seems to become more likely by the day.
Some in the financial world almost seem eager for a Greek default. The following is what Jon Moulton, the chairman of Better Capital, recently told CNBC….
“If I was Greek, I wouldn’t be going for these measures, I’d be going for default and getting it over with. Would you like two to three years of pain or 20?”
But a disorderly Greek default would not be a pleasant thing for the global economy at all. A recent article in the Guardian detailed what some of the consequences of a Greek default and exit from the eurozone might be….
But default and “re-drachmatisation” would be a costly and chaotic process. In the long term the euro might be strengthened if some of its weaker members headed for the door. But in the short term banks across the eurozone might have to be closed to prevent a run on the single currency as investors speculated about which country might be next. A new wave of bank nationalisations would be likely to follow as lenders counted their losses on now worthless Greek debt.
Capital controls would have to be imposed and borders shut to stop money flooding out of Greece. Portugal, Italy and Spain would come under intense pressure from investors wary about the risk of another victim. Banks everywhere, already reluctant to lend, would cut back hard, nervous about their exposure to the bonds of all Europe’s crisis-hit states.
And the financial crisis in Europe is going to continue to spread well beyond Greece. Moody’s Investors Service just downgraded the credit ratings of six European nations. The following is how Bloomberg described the downgrades….
Spain was downgraded to A3 from A1 with a negative outlook, Italy was downgraded to A3 from A2 with a negative outlook and Portugal was downgraded to Ba3 from Ba2 with a negative outlook, Moody’s said. It also reduced the ratings of Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta.
Countries such as Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Hungary are heading down the exact same road that Greece has gone. Greece was the first one to experience a full-blown depression, but soon Greece will have a lot of company.
Greece is most definitely a warning sign for the world. If you keep recklessly piling up debt, eventually a day of reckoning comes. It is inevitable.
But Barack Obama does not seem to understand this. He continues to pile another 150 million dollars on to our national debt every single hour. He knows that cutting spending significantly right now would hurt the economy and that would significantly hurt his chances for another term.
Needless to say, Barack Obama is not likely to do anything that is going to significantly hurt his chances for another four years in the White House.
So we continue to roll on toward disaster.
The U.S. financial system is like a car with no brakes that is heading straight toward a 5,000 foot drop at 100 miles an hour.
It is all going to seem like fun and games to some people until we hit the canyon floor.
Once that happens, nobody will be laughing.